Jerry Nunn is a contributing writer to the GoPride Network. His work is also featured in Windy City Times, Nightspots Magazine and syndicated nationally.
Kathy Wakile stars in the hit Bravo TV show The Real Housewives of New Jersey, which is gearing up for a fifth season. Kathy and her husband of 21 years, Richie, along with their two children, Victoria and Joseph, joined the show's third season in 2011. Since, her children have grown up and Kathy is pursuing a dessert business venture.
ChicagoPride.com's Jerry Nunn caught up with Kathy during a private event at Café Buonaro's just outside of Chicago. Kathy talked about her current projects and life as a Housewife.
JN: (Jerry Nunn) Hey, Kathy. Let's go back from the beginning of The Real Housewives of New Jersey for you. How did you get on the show?
KW: (Kathy Wakile) I was contacted through a casting agent. They told me that they were interviewing many people so I didn't take it that serious. I never imagined myself being on TV or being a part of something like this or a reality show. We went through some interviews and my husband and I talked about it to our kids. They finally came back to me and asked me to be on the show.
JN: You took the plunge!
KW: Yes, we took the plunge to see where it goes.
JN: I heard they had been looking for a family.
KW: I think so. Initially they didn't know we were related because I never shared the same last name with Theresa. I am related to her on my maternal side. When they found out it was an easy fit for them.
JN: It is an interesting angle to the whole Housewives saga.
KW: Our neighborhood is like six degrees of separation. We all know each other one way of another so our paths have crossed before.
JN: How old are your kids?
KW: My son is seventeen and my daughter turned 19.
JN: So not really young kids...
KW: No and that was another big factor. My kids were just getting into high school and they already had a foundation to who they were and had a good structure to what they believed in. I wouldn't have done it otherwise. High school is rough so we talked to them over and over about it. If it were something they didn't want to do then we wouldn't have even considered it. They were good with it and we made a family pact. If anything they felt was happening outside the house was interfering inside the house then we agreed to discuss it. "Don't believe anything that you hear, just come home and discuss it we can set it straight." We have always been our whole lives like that. That is how we have kept our family unit. So far it has been pretty good. We have been lucky.
JN: There are Housewives like Kim Zolciak with younger kids.
KW: That is harder. Kids can be mean. With my kids, thank God, they have been unaffected. They haven't let it change who they are at all. They still go to school. They still have their chores around the house and pitch in. They still have to keep up their grades. My son still serves at the altar every Sunday. Nothing has changed as far as that goes.
JN: How do you feel like everything has come out?
KW: For the most part everything has been pretty good. There is always a bit of drama and misinterpretation. It's entertainment and you have to remember exactly how things happen and that doesn't change who you are. Other people's perception is not your reality. You can't let it affect you.
JN: I like that.
KW: It has been great. People have said that they love our family. They love our kids. What is bad about that? That's one of the best gifts a parent can have. You work really hard and sometimes question yourself as a mom. "Am I doing this right? Will they blame me for this later? Am I being too strict or too lenient?" You are always second guessing yourself because you are going through it the first time. When people notice what you are doing then it feels like I did a good job.
JN: Rosie Pierri came out on the show. Was it known before?
KW: I've known since I was kid. I always knew but she never really talked about it until about 15 years ago. She wasn't really saying anything and she had boyfriends. I don't think she knew herself. She was struggling with it for a long time. We weren't raised very open to talk about sexuality or even boyfriends and girlfriends at all. It wasn't something we talked about in our house. So it was natural for her not to even think about it. When she did come out to me she was always afraid of how the kids would feel. That was never an issue for me but it was her choice when she wanted to talk about it with the kids. It wasn't my truth to tell. If they asked then I would tell them the truth but they never asked. They only just saw her as Aunt Rosie that's it. When she finally came out they were really shocked. I know it seems hard to believe but they only saw her as fun Aunt Rosie always. They never cared about that they just loved her.
When they were little they came home school and asked what gay means. I told them it means "happy." First of all I didn't want to lie to them. They were too young to understand. They didn't know what sexuality was. I didn't want to explain that to them. I wanted it to have positive word enforcement. So they were good with it.
Rosie had a hard time struggling with it for years. She would go through mood swings. You are born this way and it is not a choice. She had a hard time dealing with it and accepting herself. That is the biggest part of growing up, self-acceptance. I never wanted her to tell the kids when she was in a bad place in her life. Again I didn't want my kids to associate being gay with being unhappy. I wanted my kids to know that you can be gay and love yourself, to be able to live a great life. When Rosie was ready and at a good place in her life she decided it was the time to talk to the kids. Now they are so much closer because there is nothing hidden between them. She feels free and can talk about anything she wants to talk about. The kids feel that connection towards her.
JN: I should talk to her sometime about it.
KW: She would love it.
JN: Seeing the gay wedding with Rich and Jaime was a wonderful episode on the show.
KW: That was so beautiful, the ceremony and just their life together.
JN: Gay marriage is still in the works in Illinois.
KW: Well, I wish you all the best!
JN: Have you been here very often?
KW: This is the third time that we are here. It has always been a quick visit but I want to come back for longer. I want to bring the kids because I keep telling them how great the city is. They would love it.
JN: Do you watch the other Bravo shows?
KW: Oh, I watch them all. I was a big fan before even this show came on. When they approached me it seemed so odd to me. I got hooked on Project Runway and Top Chef.
JN: You have some fans now yourself. One person flew in just for this luncheon.
KW: It is very flattering.
JN: Would you ever want to do Celebrity Apprentice?
KW: That would be a great opportunity and quite a challenge. You have to see where are in life and what place but sure, why not?
JN: Tell our readers about your products.
KW: I have my dessert line. My initial product was a cannoli kit. If you have ever had one before then you know it is best when it is freshly filled. People were asking me all over the country what a cannoli is. They hadn't lived! To have one how it is supposed to taste then it has to be freshly filled so what I came up with is two trays of twelve mini cannolis. They were small and indulgent. I didn't cut calories but I cut the size. Portion control is the key to living a healthy lifestyle is everything in moderation and not depriving yourself. So it is two packages of twelve shells and two pastry bags of cannoli cream. They come packed in dry ice. You put it in your freezer and take it out an hour before you fill them. You fill them on demand so you can have them fresh. It has a crunchy shell and soft center. I'm excited that they were on QVC already. They are called Dulci della Dea-Goddess Sweets so everyone can be a goddess in their own kitchen. They can take ownership of their own dessert.
JN: Were you always a big cook?
KW: Oh yeah a huge cook. I love the whole harvest and picking out the food. I love to shop for the fresh ingredients. My parents are immigrants and always lived farm to table. That's why I love Chicago because I see a lot of that here.
JN: You have jewelry also?
KW: Yes, I have a jewelry line. It is called the Goddess Eye. A portion of the proceeds go to the National Brain Tumor Society because the eyes are the mirror of the soul but they are also a mirror of what is going on neurologically. When my daughter had a brain tumor when she was ten and she fainted her eyes were the first sign that something was seriously wrong with her. They are all hand crafted and sterling silver. I will be selling them on my website.
JN: They say your eyes reflect everything.
KW: It does. That is why this show has presented a great opportunity to be involved with organizations like the Brain Tumor Foundation. Unfortunately there is not a long survival rate with brain tumors. It is either debilitating or fatal. My daughter was very fortunate. Hers was benign and we got to it right away. She had no incident after so we consider ourselves very lucky. The show gave us an opportunity to get involved with the organization and lend our voice. It is something really important. If you can use that platform for something really positive then it proves that great things can come from reality TV. That means the world to me.